The architect is too often perceived as making demands from his minimalist ivory tower while sitting on his Barcelona chair and sipping an espresso. But Paul Tebben and Vladimir Radutny established SIDE architecture in 2008 to practice architecture by being involved in all aspects of creating a building, from design to completed construction. Tebben and Radutny, who met when working at Krueck + Sexton Architects, display an openness to learn new building methods, and their presence on site during a project is a distinguishable quality that sets their practice apart. Their vision to create thoughtful and meaningful projects for each client’s needs result in architecture that builds homes and community centers, not houses and public spaces.
I got the chance to interview Tebben and Radutny about their practice. Read the interview below, which has been edited for length and clarity.
Matthew Keeshin: What inspired you both to open a studio?
Vladimir Radutny: I wanted to have more control over the final decisions in design projects. I wanted to understand the intricacies of how a project begins and ends. A lot of times when you are in an office, whether it is K+S or another firm, you become just a part in a sequence of events, unless you are there for a very long time. For me at least, the experience I gained there became critical to our ability to launch a practice. It was a fun place to be and I learned a lot there. It reaffirmed our desire to build as much as possible and get stuff done.
Paul Tebben: The other thing we learned from them [K+S] was the idea that design doesn’t stop at the start of construction. The ability to have a presence on the construction site and really be an active agent, not just an overseer in that process and being a part of a project’s realization is essential for us. Having conversations with the tradesmen and contractors is absolutely critical. You can have a really great idea, but if your presence stops when construction starts, that great idea can be tarnished in infinite ways.
MK: How has having a very hands on approach and being involved in the entire construction process allowed you to experiment and explore ideas to further develop as a studio?
PT: For example, with our Planted Environment project, we were there on-site laying out the first courses of the wall assembly to show the contractor how we wanted it to be built, but we were also there to convince ourselves of the design prior to its implementation and calibrate it at that phase to determine, for example, if the gaps in the pattern should be 4 inches or 3 ¾ inches. We wanted to see with our own eyes what would work best. This engagement with the whole process is critical, from taking what we hope is a rich concept in the beginning and making it better at each step of construction. It’s not this elitist profession that people perceive it to be; you really have to roll up your sleeves and go to work.
VR: There is even more to it. Aside from the dialogue with sub-contractors and reaching out to various professions to see what’s possible, we have a genuine respect for the people with whom we work. We are not above the people who are building the projects. They are a part of this bigger process and we need to engage them before construction; before it becomes real. Mistakes can come up, so it’s important to call manufacturers about a something like the size of a tube and understand why we are going to use it and learn. We really work at the idea and the execution because ultimately we want to it to become real. It’s something we also need to fully understand, and that’s the hands-on approach.